Lots of dog owners choose to feed dry food. After all, it’s easy to store, and easy to portion. Some dry foods can even help your dog’s teeth to stay clean. However, if your dog does develop dental disease and needs some teeth removed, they might find chewing on kibble a little more difficult. Whilst some dogs will switch to canned food in their old age, others will need you to soften their dry dog food to make it easier to eat.

Why do I need to soften my dog’s food?


There are a few different reasons why you may need to soften your dog’s dry diet to help them to eat. Dogs that might need their food softening include:

  • Young puppies that are weaning
  • Dogs with few teeth remaining
  • Dogs that need a higher water intake, such as dogs with kidney disease, that don’t like canned food
  • Dogs with a low appetite that don’t like canned food
  • Dogs with painful teeth awaiting a dental operation.

It’s best to talk to your vet if you notice your dog is struggling to eat his dry food, even if he’s an older dog. Having painful teeth removed can make a huge difference to your dog’s quality of life, and pain relief can also help your dog to cope.

How should I soften my dog’s food?

There are three usual methods to softening your dog’s food. We’ll look at these below:

1. How to soften your dog’s kibble by adding water


The simplest way to soften your dog’s food is to add a little water. You can use fresh water from the tap, or boiled and cooled water – it’s ok if it’s still a little warm, this will probably help it soak and may increase the scent of the food for dogs that aren’t hungry.

There’s no ‘correct’ amount of water as it depends on the consistency you’d like the kibble to become. A quarter to a half of the volume of food is about right. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so, until the kibble is soft enough.

2. Adding broth or milk


If your dog needs more tempting, you can try adding something other than water to his kibble. Broth from boiling up chicken or bones is good – just pass the water through a sieve before you use it to make sure it’s just water.

You might also want to use water from a tin of tuna (use tuna in spring water, not in brine!) if your dog likes the flavor. Again, this can be added to the kibble and allowed to soak for 5 or so minutes, stirring if necessary, to increase the flavor of the food and make it softer and easier to eat.

Some people suggest adding milk, but this isn’t generally a good idea for dogs, as they’re often lactose intolerant. Milk can cause diarrhea in dogs, which won’t help your dog out! If you think milk is the only thing that will help your dog to eat, try adding a small amount of cat milk, a lactose-free milk made specifically for cats and enriched with vitamins and minerals.

For puppies, dry dog food can be mixed with dog milk replacer during weaning to help them transition. They’ll still have lactase enzymes, so will be able to digest the milk properly. Cow’s milk and goat’s milk are not ideal, as they have higher amounts of lactose and can still cause an upset stomach.

3. Try mixing canned food with dry food


Canned food is high in moisture and may help you to soften your dog’s wet food. You can mix in a small amount of canned food to the dry food to soften it up and increase the flavor.

Remember that sudden changes to the diet can cause gut upset – don’t give too much canned food unless it’s part of your dog’s normal diet. Unless your dog is underweight, you also need to account for the extra calories in the canned diet by removing some of the kibble.


There are a few key ways to soften dog food for senior dogs, dogs that need a higher water intake, or dogs with bad teeth that are awaiting a dental operation. You’ll quickly work out which method is best for your dog. If you aren’t sure why your dog is struggling to eat his kibble, it’s time to get him checked at the vets, as it’s likely something can be done.